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Dark Parables: The Swan Princess and The Dire Tree (PC) artwork

Dark Parables: The Swan Princess and The Dire Tree (PC) review

"Intricate storyline that has all the plot twists of a corkscrew with magic, mayhem, intrigue, treachery and murder."

The Swan Princess and The Dire Tree is the 11th game in the Dark Parables series. Though stand alone, for anyone who has been following this series there are omages to the previous games (Rapunzel #7 and Goldilocks #10 come to mind immediately) and adds even more history to the Prince James (Frog Prince #2) saga. (For those who care the 1st Swan Princess, Odette, was one of the Prince James' (Frog Prince) 5 wives. Also Ross Red (Prince Ross Red) is the fraternal twin of Princess Snow White, now Queen Snow White also known as the Snow Queen (# 3), who was also one of Prince James' 5 wives.) I do so enjoy a series that keeps their overall long term story straight and without plot holes. But enough about the series as a whole.

Storyline: As soon as the flying 'Seed of Life' from the Dire Tree (omage to Yggdrasil, Tree of Life) germinates it is stolen by the Black Swan, a title giving to a Swan Guard traitor in the Swan Kingdom on Dire Island. (Swan guards are the lifelong protectors of the Goddess Flora and the Dire Tree.) The whole Swan Kingdom and the entire island of Dire is now facing utter destruction since the 'Seed of Life' used in a life regenerative ritual by the Goddess Flora now can not be performed unless returned. Huge lava filled cracks are appearing all over the island and the present and 6th Swan Princess has sent for aid. That aid comes from the Master Tailor (omage to a fairy tale), who can literally sew the earthen cracks shut with his enchanted "sword" which looks like a sewing needle, and you, the player as the Fairy Tale Detective. Your task find the traitor, the Black Swan (once Head of the Swan Guards) and the flying 'Seed of Life' then return them both to the Swan Princess. The situation is not as it seems, appearances are deceiving and everything changes when the Goddess Flora dies. (Chapter 2). The mission then becomes find out what is really going on, the reasons behind everything and of course, saving the Swan Kingdom from annilihation. That is part of the job description after all, Fairy Tale Detective.

The Game: 8 chapters plus 2 bonus chapters. Intricate storyline that has all the plot twists of a corkscrew with magic, mayhem, intrigue, treachery and murder. And I still call this a family friendly game.

Fast travel map with things to do highlighted with a star. Pastel color pallette. Built in strategy guide. Four game modes: Casual, Hard, Insane and Custom. No hand holding in this game, and at times the clues are a bit obsure, if not missed because the dialogue disappears way too fast. Personally I recommend Casual for all the little sparklies that are hard to see anyway and the hints on the fast travel map. No reason not to play on Casual. There is no achievement for playing on Hard mode. There are no hint penalties unless in Hidden Object Puzzle (HOP) and no skip penalties. The in-game achievements are same as the Steam achievements. There are even trading cards.

All achievements can be earned in a single playthrough, and if any are missed (except the parables) during gameplay (including the collectibles) they can be picked up through the Extras menu. All Hidden Object Puzzles (HOPs) and mini-games can be replayed in the Extra menu. There is a mini-game called Souvenirs where the player goes back through every scene in the game and looks for a single item (watch for cursor change, if the item is not immediately apparent.) The Extra menu includes art concept, wall papers, music, video, etc. The main game screen includes buttons for achievements, parables and collectibles so the player can keep track of their progress without leaving the game.

One of the newest features of the game series is the 3D elements. This feature is quite prominent when opening smaller boxes. Also they have stirred away from the traditional morphing/ghost objects and made their morphing objects (which morph into a flower) their parable pieces. The other extra hidden find, the collectibles, are tiny acorns with wings on both sides. Some of these can be quite tough to find. (Did I mention that built in strategy guide that so happens to have at the end the location of all parable pieces and acorn collectibles.)

Gameplay: A smooth blend between point and click, problem solving, HOPs, and puzzles. Nothing is contrived, all four of those elements appear where they should. Point and click to adventure about, problem solving when a task needs to be done, HOPs when looking for or needing a specialized object like a key and puzzles on anything that locks or opens usually.

The problem solving bits can be a bit obsure at times and chase about on the fast map. But it does not happen often and the clues are there. Just be very observant, click on everything, and look for cursor changes. Some places are rather small in out of the way places or seemingly unimportant places like a brazier at the top of a staircase. Everything is very logical in the story progression and what one would normally do if presented with the same type of situation in real life. And yes, keys are the only thing that open locks. (Though the "key" may not necessarily be a standard type of key. Gems are used as keys.)

The HOPs are pictures unlike the usual list finds. These types of HOPs are standard for this series. Basically some object has been disassembled into pieces and the HOP consists of finding all the pieces. The game will automatically assembly the pieces when finished. The pieces are divided into three different sections, so as the pieces of each section are all found that part will assembly itself. When all three sections have assemblied, those three pieces will assembly into the completed object and go into inventory. Once the mind accustoms itself to this, the HOPs can become very easy. Nothing is unfairly hidden, though some pieces are half hidden behind other things or obsured in some way, and the size or color can change slightly. Color changes are generally due to "poor light" or "shadows" in the game scene. For example the game scene is heavily shaded by trees and slightly in creviss. Every item is drawn according to these light conditions. Though in this game finding the mosaic pieces on the mosaic itself was a challenge. It was like looking for jigsaw puzzle pieces on the jigsaw puzzle itself.

The puzzles are varied, diverse and something NEW. There are several types of mazes including a vertical tower maze, sliders, rotators, a jigsaw puzzle, a tangram, a recipe, logic puzzles, matching and a NEW type of puzzle my friend mickmane called a logic connector. I would what call it a math logic connector or even a circuitry puzzle. These puzzles are found on the rune pedestrals. How they work is there are numbered dice (the amount of connections allowed) scattered all over the board and to solve the player must connect lines to every die for that amount of connections. Seems simple when hearing it explained, looks daunting when seen, and logic is the name of this game. And it is NEW. After a lifetime of puzzles, I have never played this type of puzzle before. Thumbs up!!

Well I think I covered everything, and thanks for putting up with all the history about Dark Parables but I have been playing this series since 2010, more then once. I highly recommend this game even at full price. It is a bit more difficult then the usual fare and certainly not cookie cutter or predictable.


joan4003's avatar
Community review by joan4003 (July 13, 2016)

Joan would much rather give up her day to write but that requires a substantial income and in-coming paychecks for said writing ability.

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